Posted in Life, Spirituality, Universe, Writing

In The Right Place At The Right Time

2014-03-06 18.54.41When it comes to writing, I have noticed that some times my mind likes to go on vacation. When I need to sit down and focus on my “real” writing, my mind will go blank. I will try to read a book or watch a movie for inspiration. I am still doing my “try something new every day” personal challenge. But when I sit down in front of the computer to work on my writing samples I…(insert sounds of crickets here).

Whilst playing tourist with my mother, I took her to my favorite bookstore in Pasadena, Vroman’s. The minute you walk in the door, there is actually a huge display of books to help writers. I was drawn to a cube-shaped book entitled “The Writer’s Block.” Each page offers ideas to get the creative juices flowing. For me, my inner child was drawn to the irony of the shape and title. If my inner child is inspired, then I will be inspired. But unfortunately it looked like many others were intrigued by this book because the spine was worn. This is where my adult OCD kicks in–you know the one that wants the books and boxes that look like they haven’t been touched by anyone else even though the outer appearance has nothing to do with the inner content. I went to the information desk to see if they had any other copies of the book. With the worn out spine version before me being the only “Writer’s Block” in the store, they offered to order me a new copy.

Fast forward four days and I receive a message that my order had arrived. When you order a book at Vroman’s, you pick it up at Will Call on the second floor. The second floor is also where they have speakers and book signings. On this particular day, they were setting up for a book signing. I noticed a display with a Buddha head and I was instantly intrigued. I picked up my order and inquired about the upcoming event. Much to my delight, I learned that Shamar Rinpoche would be there to speak about meditation, mind training and signing his book “The Path to Awakening.”

Shamar Rinpoche is the 14th Shamarpa, or Red Hat Lama of Tibet. He organized the Bodhi Life Path Buddhist Centers in 1996 (the same year I graduated from high school and moved to California). The Bodhi Life Path Buddhist Centers are “a network of centers based on a non-sectarian approach to Buddhism. The curriculum of Bodhi Path centers is grounded in the teachings of the 11th century Indian Buddhist master Atisha, as they were transmitted by Gampopa. Atisha’s methods are the most effective for taming the mind and deepening wisdom, and in addition can be taught and employed in a secular way.”

After listening to Shamar Rinpoche talk about his book, meditation and his Bodhi Life Path centers, I realized that this is the next step in my personal growth process. I have struggled with anxiety, depression, insomnia and other afflictions because of my own cognitive thought processes. My mind often gets stuck in a loop, I overthink when I should relax and let it be, and I struggle to shut off my mind for meditation and sleeping.

I was third in line to get my book signed and when I approached Shamar Rinpoche, my nerves took over, allowing my basic knowledge of Buddhist customs to escape my mind. I did remember to bow but then I reached out to shake his hand, instantly thinking “oh shit, what did I just do?”

But with pure grace, he shook my hand and simply said, “You are new to this practice, yes?”

“Yes. I have tried Shambhala meditation but I only heard of your Bodhi Life Path today.”

He signed my book then picked up one of the Bodhi Life Path Buddhist Center information cards and wrote his own personal email address on the card.

“This is my direct email.  You read and if you have any questions, you send me an email and I will help you.”

A Tibetan Buddhist Monk…the 14th Shamarpa just gave me his personal email address and offered to personally help me with my mind training and meditation techniques.  Was this really happening?  I was told that I have “Divine Guidance” helping with every aspect of my life, was this proof?  This is what I needed.  I need to work on mind training and meditation techniques.  Did the Universe really just put me in the right place at the right time to hear what I needed to hear to help me fix what I need to fix to get to where I need to be?

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Posted in Astrology, Life, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe

The Libra Moon

Last night’s full moon was the Libra moon, a time to strive for peace and harmony.  As a Libra myself, I found last night’s moon mesmerizing.  There was just a little bit of haze in the Southern California sky that created a halo around the moon.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I tried my best to capture the moment but a camera can only do so much.

In Asian cultures, this full moon is known as the peaceful Crane Moon.  One should fold 1,000 origami cranes and their dreams will come true.  For many, they dream of peace and harmony.  In Japan, the crane is one of their mystical creatures, like dragons, that are said to live for a thousand years.  So when you make 1,000 origami cranes and string them together, the crane will grant you a wish, such as long life or recovery from illness.  This is traditionally given to special friends or family members, often on their wedding day representing a wish for a long happy marriage.  I once worked with a guy when I lived in Florida who spent a month making 1,000 paper cranes for his girlfriend, which he presented to her on her birthday when he proposed marriage.  She said yes so I guess he got his wish.

Either way, the crane is supposed to bring health and happiness, peace and harmony–just like the Libra scales.  I didn’t have time to make 1,000 paper cranes last night (I do have Tibetan prayers flags hanging all over my house, does that count?)  But I did read about a Druid peace prayer and ritual that could be done instead of making 1,000 paper cranes on this full moon.  Here is what you do:

“Draw a rough outline of a crane in salt on a plate, pouring into the salt all your beliefs about finding inner peace or witnessing world peace.  Allow the salt’s bitterness to soak up your fears and doubts.  Pour the salt into a bowl of water.  As you watch those beliefs and emotions dissolve, recite the Druid’s Peace Prayer: Deep within the still center of my being, may I find peace. Silently within the quiet of the Grove, may I share peace. Gently and powerfully, within the greater circle of mankind, may I radiate peace.” ~Kristin Madden, Llewellyn’s Witches Datebook 2012.

Personally, I like to take a long hot bath during the Full Moon–a literal cleansing to coincide with a spiritual one.  Then I like to go outside with a hot cup of tea, and stare up at the stars.  This is my own personal version of a Full Moon Meditation.  I do this on every full moon.  But like I said before, I am a Libra.  I am always in search of peace and harmony.

And in that spirit, I would suggest that one should try to make peace with their past (or a troubled relationship/friendship) in order to feel a sense of inner peace.  Use this as a time to let go–think of it as a form of Spring Cleaning.

Peace!

Posted in Endometriosis, Family, Life, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe, Writing

Take Life One Skittle At A Time

There are times when I feel like I need an Anonymously Stressed Support (ASS) Group to survive.  If there was one, I would go to a meeting today.  My introduction would be something like this:

Hi, my name is Kelly. I have severe Endometriosis and I have stress issues–a wonderful combination.  I have been in therapy for three years now, working on my stress management techniques.  My stress levels, when elevated, trigger my Endometriosis and send me into a dark, emotional, vortex of madness.

I used to take birth control to help maintain my Endo hormone levels but back in July, we realized that I was having a reaction to the progesterone in birth control.  So my options became surgical or holistic.  I decided on the holistic route.  I thought eating right, exercise, physical therapy and stress management therapy would suffice in maintaining my Endo.  And it did, during the summer when I was stress-free.  I was back to being my happy goofy self until school started.  For teachers, the beginning of the school year is extremely stressful.  This was my first year without the birth control helping me maintain some form of sanity.  Without it, I took a dive off the deep end into a pit of darkness in early September.

This was my Awakening.  I knew I had to change my life around or I was going to end up in a mental institution, bouncing around in a padded cell, enjoying that lovely white jacket that lets me hug myself all day.  So in addition to my therapist, physical therapist, a psychic and Endo doctor, I decided to add a psychiatrist and Buddhist monk to my Team Kelly survival crew.  Our goal: stop my stressful job and the Endo from defining my life.  I needed to reclaim my life and myself again.  I needed to find a sense of peace and calmness.  I needed to survive.

My first step was to move.  I was living in an apartment I hated with extremely horrific neighbors.  I hated going home.  I liked the rental price, the size of the apartment, and the location to work but it was slowly driving me insane.  I had to wear headphones just to hear my own television.  So I moved into a co-workers house.  Which turned out to be another bad situation.  Not as bad as the apartment but still it was not what I needed.  Luckily, I realized it at the right time and immediately found a house that belonged to my California sister’s friend.  Now I am in my dream house.  It used to scare me but now it is my real home.  It is a place of peace and serenity.

The next step was to work on my stress management.  With the help of my therapist and psychiatrist, I finally discovered my real stress triggers and what to do to overcome them.  This has been the hardest journey for me to take.  I really had to look within, at all of my faults, and learn to let go.  You can’t be a perfectionist and be stress-free.  The two contradict each other.  So enter Buddhist Meditation classes.  I admit that it felt really weird at first, and I do still prefer to do it in the comfort of my own home, but it helps to have someone instruct you on the proper techniques and guide you.  I have a rambling mind that will wander through all the crazy rooms that reside in my brain when forced to sit in a quiet room.  I really have to work on my focus.  But the breathing techniques have really helped me get through the day-to-day.  When something upsets me, I focus on my breathing to calm myself down.

For me, though, the best stress relief has been to help my students.  I have been teaching them my stress relief strategies.  Their favorite saying of mine is “forget one day at a time, focus on getting through ten minutes at a time.  Then reward yourself with a Skittle.  By the end of the day, you can enjoy a whole bag of Skittles.”  One of my girls was having a really tough time and I brought her a bag of Skittles.  Putting that smile on her face and giving her a bright moment in her day actually made me feel better about myself.  Helping others really does help you as well.  So when the Endo hormones bring on depression, I do something for someone else to give myself a purpose.  Gandhi was right when he said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

My other stress relief technique is to dance it out.  Sometimes I make my kids dance with me at the end of the day.  Or I go home and play some of my dancing games on Wii.  Or I will just dance around the house.  Hot Dog used to tease me about my “dancing defense mechanism”.  I used to do it in front of him when we would fight.  I would put on my iPod and just start dancing to relieve the tension.  I know there are probably some scientific studies out there that prove that any type of exercise is good stress relief, a good way to relieve depression.  I just like to dance.  It calms me down.

I think we all go through moments/stages where life sucks.  We have our good days and our bad days.  We get depressed, we are sick, we are in pain, our heart is broken, and the grey clouds stroll in, hanging over our heads.  I feel that way today.  I have been sick for weeks and that has caused my Endo to act up.  Being in pain and getting Endo headaches and cramps makes being around loud teenagers unbearable.  I love my kids but when you have 40 of them in a room, it can get way too loud.  Plus I am also dealing with some financial stress.

So being sick and worrying about money means I need to kick in some of my stress management strategies.  I have my iPod and a bag of Skittles in my purse waiting for me.  I am taking it 10 minutes at a time and when I make it through the day, I get to enjoy a nice bag of Skittles.  Then I will dance around my classroom in triumph for making it through another day.

Posted in Astrology, Life, Photography, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe

The Lion Moon

The Lion Moon poking through the clouds in the Altadena, CA night sky.

Tonight, February 7, 2012, the Full Moon is in Leo.  If you look it up on the internet, you can find all kinds of different meanings for the “Lion Moon.”

To the Native Americans, the February Full Moon, no matter which constellation it appears to inhabit, is considered to be the “Snow Moon.”  They believe that the heaviest snow fall occurs in February.  Based on my childhood in Michigan, I would have to agree.  I remember having blizzards occur practically every year during our “winter break” in February.  Ironically, here in California, we had a rain storm, our version of winter weather.

According to shirleymaclaine.com, “The Full Moon in Leo, also the Moon opposite the Sun at 4:54 PM, often called the Snow Moon, is about self versus others in the scheme of your life and what you want the most. Strong challenge can be brought to a head with the core reasoning being what you want in relation to another’s desires. This ray can cause you to want to jump ship and run off to an island of fun and frolic rather than having to stay anywhere there is rigidity or confinement.”

This would go with what others say, that the Lion Moon is a time when your rational thinking tends to contradict your gut instincts.  They will battle it out and the stronger of the two will prevail.  The stronger one will most likely turn out to be a decision where you break free from your past or current path and start a new one.  You will be encouraged to take steps toward this new path to renew and excite your spirit.  You are ready to let go and move on.

Some say this is a time for love and creativity.  The Sun is in Aquarius and reflecting onto the Moon in Leo, creating loving feelings to stimulate the heart and mind.  It is a time of altruistic love, to help others and then you in return will receive love.  It is a time to celebrate and  party.  If you are in a relationship, this is the time to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.  If your relationship is strained, now is the time to rekindle the old flame.  And if you are single, like me, then this is the time to set your intention to finding your Mr. or Mrs. Right.

If you are a Buddhist, the February Full Moon has numerous causes for Celebration.  “Magha Puja (February full moon Day) is the festival that commemorates the occasion when 1250 enlightened personal disciples of the Buddha came spontaneously to the Bamboo grove on the full moon of Magha (our February).  The Buddha predicted his death and recited a summary of his teachings and a code of discipline which all monks are expected to recite every fortnight.  The day is observed with meditation, chanting and listening to sermons.”

It is also “Parinirvana (February full moon Day), a festival where people remember the death of Buddha. When he was 81 years old, the Buddha knew that the time had come for him to die. He lay down and died peacefully.  In the temples the lights are lowered. People chant and meditate in the dimmed light. The lights are made bright again. The lights are a symbol. They show that the light of Buddha’s teachings continues to shine in the world.”

And in Tibet, it is Losar (February Full Moon Day), celebrating the Tibetan New Year.  The celebration begins at the full moon in February and lasts for 15 days.

But tonight, when you look up at the night sky, just know that no matter what you believe, we are all one, united by the illumination of the same Full Moon.

Happy New Year, Tibet!

Posted in Life, Spirituality, Writing

My Sanctuary

Right now I am sitting in my favorite spot at the The Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, CA—the Zen Meditation Garden.  Since the Japanese Garden is currently under construction, this place truly is peaceful without all the tourists passing through and it puts you into a complete state of Zen (hence the name).  I like to come up here to write and to meditate.

Surprisingly, for a Holiday weekend, there are not that many people here at the Huntington today.  There is a cactus sale going on in the parking lot.  I saw more people there then I did inside the Gardens.  But I prefer it that way.  I like walking through the gardens, enjoying the peace and quiet that I rarely get on a day-to-day basis.  I haven’t even pulled out my Ipod.  I am enjoying listening to the sounds of nature.  Only on crowded days do I pull out the ipod and listen to my “meditation” playlist.

Tonight is also the first night of the Members Evenings.  They keep the gardens open until 8pm for members and provide music and food.  I’m not sure if I will stay that long.  It tends to feel a bit awkward attending such events, swarmed with families and couples, when you are single.  I don’t want to spend my evening hating my singleton status and wishing a certain someone was there with me to enjoy the ambiance.  So I think I will just leave at 4:30pm with the general masses.

I do have to admit, the Huntington is a great place to go on a date.  But take it from me, if you are on a date with someone who wants to have in-depth conversations and get to know you better, spend your time in the gardens and save the museums for another trip.  The museums here are amazing but it’s not an atmosphere conducive for expansive conversations.  So I would recommend spending a first date walking through the gardens, perhaps finding a quiet spot on a bench to chat, otherwise that first date could wind up being your last.  A lesson I learned the hard way.

Right now it is amazing to me how calm everything is.  The sun is shining down on me—a little too hot for my personal preference but it feels good.  (Thank God I put on lots of sunscreen).  I can hear the birds chirping and the water trying to come out of the sprinklers.  In the distance, you can hear voices of the patrons wanting to see what is up here but most are disappointed by the “rock garden.”  The Bonsai Tree area is much more appealing to the masses who don’t understand the theory behind a Zen Meditation Garden.

Personally, for me, I love that the Zen Meditation garden is a “rock garden.”  When I was a kid, I tried to grow a rock garden.  My Mom let me pick out a “baby” rock at the rock quarry.  I found the perfect place for it next to our rose bushes.  I would water it every day and watch as it got bigger and bigger.  Little did I know that my mother was secretly replacing the rock with a bigger one until she couldn’t find any rocks bigger than the one I had.  That is when she told me it was now an adult rock so it wouldn’t get any bigger.

Now that I am older, I still have a love for rocks and stones but in a different capacity.  I look at them as being a part of the earth and carrying a certain energy.  Some even have the ability to absorb your negative energy and send you positive ones in return.  Yes, I believe in crystal therapy and worry stones.  Some of my friends think I’m a bit off my rocker but I don’t care.  I am who I am.

***********

OK, I had to get up and leave my lovely Zen Meditation garden.  It was getting too hot and too many tourists started filtering into the area.  When I saw a grown man fall off of a bench when he tried to jump it, I knew it was time to move on.  My peaceful Zen-like state was broken by one man’s stupidity.

It’s funny how you can tell the tourists at the Huntington from the members.  The tourists are taking pictures of all the signs and posing in front of the most random things.  The members, like myself, are sitting on the benches in the shade, reading books, writing, drawing, painting, or just taking leisurely walk—without the need for a map.

Right now, I am watching a tourist sit next to a planter in the Chinese Garden while his girlfriend takes his picture.  They are posing next to every tree in the garden.  I can’t help but giggle as he strikes a thinker pose on the bridge.  Ahh, tourists. 

This is yet another reason why I love coming here—people watching.  It is funny to watch the tourist families, forcing their children to pose for a picture every few feet.  It is clear they (the kids) would rather be somewhere else like Disneyland. 

Then, of course, you have the couples here on a date, documenting every moment with their cameras instead of actually have a real conversation with their companion.  There are the couples, most likely members, who are holding hands, walking and talking.  But those couples are usually overshadowed by my favorite type of couple to see here–teenagers here on a date.  You paid $40 for an entrance fee for what could be a very romantic date but things go array because the girls are attempting to walk around in stiletto heels while talking on their cell phones with their girlfriends, describing the gardens and ignoring their date who is still holding onto their hand, pretending not to be offended.  It’s very entertaining.

Well, they just made the announcement that the Gardens will be closing in 15 minutes (and reopening for members only in 1 hour).  I guess it is time for me to bid my sanctuary adieu.  “Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

Posted in Life

My Bucket List

Over the last few months, my family has lost several of its members. With so many passings, it makes you take a good hard look at your own life. You start to face your own mortality and think about what you have done and all the things that you still hope to do. So I thought I would start to make my own “Bucket List” of the things I hope to do before I kick the proverbial bucket.

 MY BUCKET LIST

1. Learn to speak fluent Italian (not just the cuss words and curses)

2. Go to Italy to meet my family

3. Go to England

4. Go to Transylvania

5. Go to Tibet

6. Meet the Dalai Lama (My Yoda)

7. Ride an Elephant in Africa (or India)

8. Visit my friend Neroli in New Zealand

9. Travel through Australia

10. Go to Prince Edward Island to see the real Green Gables

11. Read all of the true “Classic” novels

12. Write a book

13. Get a book published

14. Visit a Buddhist Monastery

15. Meet Shirley Maclaine (or at the very least, read all of her books)

16. Meet Johnny Depp

17. Have the Father-Daughter dance with my Dad (I will marry myself if I have to)

18. Fall in love with someone who will actually love me back

19. Adopt a Starvin’ Marvin (or any kid who just needs a good home)

20. Travel to all 50 States (Almost done with this one)

21. Find a job where I can actually have a life

22. Find a man who will actually stick around

23. Own a home (house or Condo)

24. Help find a cure for Endometriosis (by being a research study subject or an advocate)

25. Make a difference in the lives of others

26. Pay off all my debt

27. Backpack through Europe

28. See a play on Broadway

29. Go to Egypt (when it is safe)

30. Go on a Spritual quest of Epic proportions and write a book about it (“Just Eat, forget the praying and loving”)

31. Act in a movie, TV show or Play again

32. Travel to all the National Parks in the US

33. Make a Documentary or Movie with my friends

34. Explore more ghost towns

35. Go ghost hunting with Ghost Hunters

OK, this is harder than I thought. I guess I will just have to keep adding to this over time. But this is a good start.

**First posted 06/28/11